The Chicago Sun Times and The Jerusalem Post published the following articles previewing UN Watch’s upcoming 2010 Report Card on the performance of the UN Human Rights Council. The troubled 47-nation body opens its main annual session tomorrow in Geneva.
Rights Groups Want Congo Back on UN Watch List
February 26, 2010
BY STEVE HUNTLEY
For months, the streets of Tehran ran red with blood. After June’s fraudulent presidential election, Iran’s security forces and paramilitary thugs arrested, beat, shot and murdered protesters whose only crime was to be fed up with dictatorial rule. Those unfortunate enough to land in prison were raped, forced to lick toilet bowls, tortured by, for example, having their fingernails ripped out, and killed, some from abuse and some from show executions. All this is common knowledge because the whole world is watching, right?
Well, not exactly. Though the horrors of a theocratic-military regime brutally crushing dissent were spread via media around the world, all that has happened in Iran seems to have escaped the notice of the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Thanks to a just-released report by U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based monitor of the United Nations, we know the council has not introduced, much less adopted, a single resolution condemning Iran. Nor has it held a single special session on the crisis. Nor has it mandated any investigations.
As reprehensible as the council’s neglect of innocent Iranians is, it is not an isolated case. An analysis of 30 council resolutions showed that a majority, 18 of them, “turned a blind eye to the world’s worst violations” of human rights, reports U.N. Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer.
For instance, the U.N.’s rights agency cited Sudan in 2009 for “progress” on human rights — you know, Sudan, home of the Dafur genocide. It ignored such infamous human rights abusers as Russia, China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Nicaragua and Egypt, among others. In one resolution, the council launched a frontal attack on free speech by defining any discussion of terrorism committed in the name of Islam as a form of “defamation of religion” and “Islamophobia.”
It’s not that the council doesn’t see bad actors in the world, it’s just that the bad actor nearly always turns out to be — you guessed it — Israel. More than 80 percent of its condemnatory resolutions — 27 out of 33 — have been aimed at the Jewish state. A council double-standard offers cover to Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist murderers.
The most notorious slander against Israel was the 2009 Goldstone Report, a “fact-finding” mission about last winter’s Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip. That was the response forced on Israel to combat thousands of rockets fired from Gaza in a Hamas campaign of terror.
In an unprecedented effort to limit civilian casualties, Israel used hundreds of thousands of cell phone calls and leaflets to warn innocent Palestinians of danger zones. That foreshadowed the tactics used by the United States in announcing beforehand the current military offensive in Marja in Afghanistan. Just as Americans occasionally kill civilians there, the Israeli Gaza operation inadvertently killed some civilians, but mostly it took out Hamas terrorists and their allies.
The Goldstone report seized on the civilian casualties and baseless accusations from Hamas to accuse Israel of war crimes; the council promptly sent the report to the U.N. General Assembly. Last November the assembly recommended the U.N. Security Council take action, but it has mostly ignored the report. The assembly meets today and, since it hasn’t, in Neuer’s words, “figured out a way to clobber Israel,” it is expected to again ask the Security Council to take action.
The best action would be a complete rejection of Goldstone because it is nothing less than an attempt to repudiate the way civilized nations are forced to fight back against terrorist cowards who plot and commit their atrocities from behind human shields.
U.N. Watch offers a long list of ways to improve the human rights council. Given its sorry record on Iran, Israel and free speech, I’d say it should be consigned to the same place as the Goldstone report — a trash can.
NGO: UNHRC gives impunity to violators
By E.B. SOLOMONT, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
Council ignored China, Cuba, Libya, & N. Korea, while slamming Israel 27 times.
WASHINGTON – In the past year, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution praising Sri Lanka, took no action on Iran and passed 18 resolutions counterproductive to human rights, a report by the watchdog group UN Watch has charged.
Envisioning a more robust role for the United States, which joined the council last year, the Geneva-based NGO analyzed 30 key resolutions and found that only 13 of 47 council members voted “positively,” that is for resolutions advancing human rights. At the same time, the report alleged, the council ignored 18 of the worst violators, including China, Cuba, Libya and North Korea, and it slammed Israel with 27 out of 33 of its country-specific resolutions.
The report also found that more than half of current members – 24 out of 47 – fail to meet basic standards of democracy, according to the Freedom House annual survey.
“The UN’s main human rights body has turned into the world’s leading sponsor of impunity for gross abuses worldwide,” said Hillel Neuer, UN Watch‘s executive director, visiting Washington to present the group’s 2010 scorecard and report. On Wednesday, he joined New York Congressman Eliot Engel and Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen at a Capitol Hill briefing in which he urged the US to hold the Human Rights Council more accountable.
The UN Watch document mentioned the Goldstone Report, since the Gaza fact-finding mission was mandated by the council, but did not focus on it.
“It very much fits into a pattern and practice,” Neuer said. He said members of the fact-finding mission – including Christine Chikin and Desmond Travers – made public statements about Israel’s culpability before their investigation began. “The council knew what it was getting” and was committed to a “preconceived outcome,” Neuer said.
With the council set to open its 13th session on March 1, Neuer envisioned a role for the US in which it would “speak out” against impunity. For example, Iran is vying for a seat on the council. “There is great concern that in the upcoming elections in May, Iran is a candidate,” Neuer said.
The UN Watch report also describes the council’s inaction regarding 12 examples of gross human rights violations. They include a lack of council action on media censorship in Belarus, extrajudicial killings and forced labor in Myanmar and longstanding censorship in China. The council took no action when it came to Iran, where the June 2009 election prompted widespread protests and arrests, including reports of point-blank shootings, prison abuse and rape.
“Unfortunately, what we’ve seen in the last decade and longer is the politicization of the Commission on Human Rights and now [its replacement], the Human Rights Council,” UN Watch chairman Alfred Moses, a former ambassador to Romania in the Clinton administration, told reporters on Tuesday.
Based on 30 council votes in the past year, UN Watch scored each member state’s position, awarding one point for voting positively and subtracting a point for a “negative” vote, or a vote counterproductive to human rights.
Thirteen of the 47 countries scored positively, which Neuer called “the reality of the council today.”
Canada came out on top, with 23 points, followed by Germany, Italy and the Netherlands with 18.
On the negative side, 34 countries cast ballots in support of repressive regimes. Egypt and China scored the worst, at -20, edging out other offenders – Cuba, Djibouti, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Qatar and South Africa – which earned -19 points. Saudi Arabia and Russia each scored -18, while Jordan came out with -16. The United States was not ranked because it only joined the council last June.
South Africa scored poorly because it votes with old regional blocs, Neuer said.
The UN Watch report outlined concrete steps for the US to take to hold the worst violators accountable, including taking the council floor more often with resolutions and denunciations. The US should demand accountability, introduce country-specific resolutions, convene special sessions to address gross human rights violations, and oppose impractical sessions, the report recommends.
Regarding Israel, the US should work to strike down the council’s Agenda Item No. 7, adopted in 2007 over the objections of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the EU and Canada, which permanently singles out Israel at every council session.
As for 27 of the 33 country-specific resolutions singling out Israel, “This is unacceptable,” Neuer said, adding that both Israel and the Palestinians should be held accountable for their human rights records in a “fair and balanced” manner.
But in devoting 80 percent of country-specific resolutions to criticize Israel, the council has ignored “real human rights abuses” committed by Cuba, China, Russia and Saudi Arabia, said Ros-Lehtinen. “The UN’s so-called ‘Human Rights Council’ has descended into a swamp of anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-freedom bias.”